A Systems View of Exercise

This article began to take shape after reading another well-intended internet complaint about how mock-quote “science” has no relevance to practical get-in-the-gym exercise.

As pro-science as I am, I have to admit there’s a lot of truth to that point of view. You don’t have to look much further than the papers passed around the strength and fitness blogs and Facebook updates to see why. While there’s occasionally interesting stuff turning up, there’s also a lot of crap. By crap I mean papers looking at how Molecular Signal X jiggled in hungover college students when exposed to a lab trial resembling no workout you will ever do.

While I personally find a lot of the biochem research interesting, there’s no shame in admitting that it’s exactly that: a personal interest. I don’t think that material has any relevance at all to doing things at the gym, at least not in the way most folks seem to expect.

Still, there’s something not quite right about the blanket anti-science, anti-intellectual perspective that characterizes some corners of the strength and fitness field. The stereotypical Bro, the musclehead who believes the pseudo-science in supplement ads but turns hostile toward any attempt at debunking it, isn’t our ideal role model. There’s rejecting the irrelevant, on the one hand, and then there’s needless hostility towards intellectual curiosity.

The former I can get behind. The latter, that’s just typical internet posturing — or, at best, an over-reaction to bad science — and in either case an attitude best ignored. The problem is, it’s not always clear which is which, or why there’s a difference at all.

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Adrenal Fatigue Revisited [Recovery]

Several years ago, I wrote a post on the subject of adrenal fatigue. I don’t recall exactly what prompted the rant, but I’m sure it had something to do with a personal trainer or MD-turned-author trying to make a quick buck by pushing supplements. It really annoyed me (still does, really) that people who should know better would jump on bandwagons built on almost insultingly simplistic science. Capitalize on the general mistrust of mainstream medicine and you’ve got a set of passive income streams in the making.

I think that this is a topic worth revisiting. It appears that my original article, now almost five years old, garnered some attention in the last day or two, so I thought it’d be worth addressing some of the “interesting” replies. More importantly, my understanding of stress and fatigue has progressed since those days, so this post can serve not only to debunk “adrenal fatigue” claims, but to explain how stress actually works and what might be happening in lieu.

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